Are robocalls effective? According to Shaun Dakin the answer is a resounding “NO”. While robocalls appear to be a “useful way to call attention to a mailing, they have never otherwise been found to result in a measurable increase in turnout.” After numerous studies involving millions of phone calls, no robocall has shown any significant increase in turnout. Here are summaries of four robocall studies:
- A 2005 study failed to show that robocalls generated mobilization results among youth voters. This study was conducted during the 2005 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election. 18,000 young voters were randomly selected to be robocalled with one of two GOTV messages, while the rest of the young voters in the election were left uncontacted. The first group’s message encouraged turnout and informed the voters of their polling location. The second group’s message was a generic turnout encouragement. Neither message was effective at increasing turnout over the uncontacted group.
- A 2006 study failed to find that robocalls increased turnout among Latino voters when the calls were placed from a Latino organization. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) conducted the study during the 2006 General Election in five California counties. Robocalls were delivered to 61,422 low propensity Latino voters. No effect on turnout was found among those who were called relative to those who were not called.
- A 2005 study failed to find that robocalls had an effect when using the voice of a Latino celebrity. NALEO conducted this study in California, New Mexico, and the city of Houston, TX, during the 2002 General Election. More than 250,000 phone numbers associated with Latino voters received two robocalls each. The calls were recorded in Spanish by a Spanish-language-television celebrity anchorwoman. The researchers found no statistically reliable increase in turnout among those who were assigned to receive the calls relative to those who were assigned to not receive the calls. The cost of the robocall campaign was $23,725 which means that the robocalls in this study resulted in a cost per vote of approximately $275.
- Another study failed to demonstrate an effect from robocalls using political endorsements. This experiment was conducted during the Texas Republican Primary for State Supreme Court Justice. In this study, hundreds of thousands of Republican voters received a robocall message recorded by popular Republican Governor, Rick Perry. The message encouraged Republicans to turnout for the upcoming election, and to vote specifically for the endorsed nominee. Those who received the robocalls were not measurably more likely to vote than those who did not.